The Gavel outside the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, September 20, 2023, at 65 S. Front Street, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office released the names of March 19 primary candidates for the Supreme Court of Ohio. Candidates include some incumbents, one appointee going for an incumbent’s seat, and a few new faces.

The candidates that filed are:

  • Michael Donnelly – Donnelly has been a justice on the court since 2019. Before joining the court, he spent his legal career in Cuyahoga County as a judge for the court of common pleas, elected to the position in 2004, 2010 and 2016, according to a profile on the SCO website. He also served on the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Court for the county after serving as an assistant county prosecutor.
  • Melody Stewart – Stewart has been on the court since 2018, after serving on the Eighth District Court of Appeals starting in 2006. She was assistant law director in Cleveland and East Cleveland, and has worked at Cleveland State University’s law school, the University of Toledo College of Law, Ursuline College and Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law.
  • Joseph Deters – Deters was appointed to the court by Gov. Mike DeWine in Jan. 2023 to fill the seat vacated when Justice Sharon Kennedy was elected as chief justice. Instead of running for the seat he currently occupies, Deters is running to replace Justice Melody Stewart on the court. Deters was previously the Hamilton County’s prosecutor and clerk of courts, and served as Ohio Treasurer in 1998 and 2002.
  • Lisa Forbes – Currently a judge for Ohio’s Eight District Court of Appeals, Forbes was elected to the position in 2020, after serving as a private litigator in Ohio.
  • Terri Jamison – Jamison and Forbes will face off this March, something the 10th District Court of Appeals judge is familiar, having run against Justice Pat Fischer in the 2022 general election. Jamison worked as an assistant public defender in the Franklin County Public Defender’s office before working in private practice. She moved on to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in 2021 and was elected to the court of appeals in 2020.
  • Dan Hawkins – Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge Hawkins is running to fill the seat Deters hopes to vacate if he’s elected to take over Stewart’s seat. Hawkins was elected to the Franklin County court in 2019.
  • Megan Shanahan – Shanahan is currently a judge with the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, hoping to unseat Justice Donnelly on the court. Shanahan was to the county court in 2011, after being appointed in 2015. She was re-elected to the bench in 2022.

Deters, Shanahan and Hawkins all have the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party, who said in a statement the “makeup of the Ohio Supreme Court is at stake, and Ohioans stand ready to elect strong, conservative justices who will uphold the law as it is written.”

The Ohio Democratic Party has endorsed incumbents Stewart and Donnelly, along with Forbes, according to their website of candidates.

The supreme court races are currently on the partisan ballot, but another incumbent, Justice Jennifer Brunner, has sued to overturn the law allowing party affiliation to be included in supreme court justice races. Democratic Sen. Bill DeMora of Columbus also introduced Senate Bill 201 this month, hoping to reverse the law change made in 2021, saying it impacts a judge’s ability to be impartial.

Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.


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